Tuesday 24 January 2023

Review by Neil Fulwood of "ColdHarbour" by Kathryn Daszkiewicz

Kathryn Daszkiewicz is a poet of understatement and almost scalpel-like precision. Her poems have the impact of a moment of silence in a grand symphony, the hint of a memory or an idea stirring unreachably at the back of the mind. 

She is a forensically observational poet of the natural world as ‘Misletoe’ and ‘Four Seasons of Haunting,’ towards the beginning of the collection, demonstrate in fine style. The theme threads through ColdHarbour, culminating in the brilliantly sustained and imaginative sequence ‘The Greenwood Speaks: Twelve Trees of Ogham’ and the elegiac ‘Woods Seen from a Train.’

Elsewhere, there are poems on family, relationships, landscapes, the passing of time and the canvases of Edward Coley Burne-Jones. Throughout it all, Daszkiewicz’s voice is plaintive, her poetics subtle and her command of form and lineation and the use of negative space (particularly in ‘Harm and the Man’) are controlled and assured.

An enviable facility, evident in many of the pieces here, is the poem as a single sentence, unspooling down the page in perfect cadence, finely nuanced and as delicately balanced as a house of cards. Which is why I have chosen, in this review, to forego the inclusion of quotes. Trying to represent Daszkiewicz’s artistry by means of a handful of snipped out lines here are there would be a reductive and pointless exercise. 

Take ‘Visiting Time,’ for example. A poem about ageing, the trickery of memory and the traumas of war, it is constructed in two sections that play off each other, it deals in the accumulation of minutiae and it delivers its hammerblow denouement no louder than a whisper. To isolate five or six lines from it would tell you nothing. To read the whole piece is to quietly experience heartbreak. It is the kind of poem that doesn’t need a critic to talk it up or take it apart; it just needs a reader.

On which note, consider my work here done: ColdHarbour is an aesthetically and emotionally satisfying collection by a writer at the height of her powers. Seek out a copy. Make time to lose yourself in it and return to it. It really is that good.

About the reviewer
Neil Fulwood lives and works in Nottingham. He has published three full poetry collections with Shoestring Press, No Avoiding It, Can’t Take Me Anywhere and Service Cancelled, and a volume of political satires, Mad Parade, with Smokestack Books.

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